Imperial Valley ahead of federal smoking ban


Smoking has been banned in multi-unit housing nationwide: Some IV locals are ahead of the game.

IMPERIAL COUNTY – On November 29, 2016, the federal government issued a rule banning smoking in all public housing units nationwide, extending a smoke-free environment to nearly a million units. Public housing agencies will have 18 months to bring their buildings into compliance.

“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, healthy home free from harmful second-hand cigarette smoke”, said Housing Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), secondhand smoke causes more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths and nearly 34,000 premature deaths from heart disease each year in the U.S. 

Locally, the Imperial Valley Housing Authority (IVHA) is interested in protecting the health of its tenants and families and has worked to implement voluntary smoke-free policies at its complexes over the last few years.

The IVHA started its efforts in 2013 by implementing its first voluntary smoke-free policy at Cedar Homes in El Centro. To date, 11 of its complexes are now smoke-free with the most recent smoke-free complexes being the Westmorland O Glenn Killingsworth Homes and Robert Reese and Brawley Senior Plaza Apartments.

“At Imperial Valley Housing Authority, we are concerned about the health risks associated with tobacco use and secondhand smoke and the negative effect it may have on the children and families we serve. With the passage of smoke-free policies, we’re striving to provide opportunities that contribute positively to our environment, and ultimately, results in improved health and wellbeing for all,” said Andrea Roark, director of the Imperial Valley Housing Authority. 

Beyond the multiple benefits for the tenants of living in smoke-free complexes, there is a lower maintenance cost for public housing authorities and apartment owners. The cost of turning over a smoker’s apartment unit to get it ready for a new tenant can cost from $4,000-$5,000, resulting in unnecessary costs for public housing authorities and apartment owners.

Most exposure to secondhand smoke occurs in homes and workplaces. Secondhand smoke comes from burning tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, including hookahs, and causes a variety of health issues in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, and ear infections. In adults, some of the health conditions caused by secondhand smoke include coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. 

The Imperial Valley Housing Authority, Imperial County Tobacco Education Project, Coalition for a Tobacco-free Imperial County and their partners continue to work on tobacco-control efforts to help protect the community from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

Individuals interested in getting involved, looking for tobacco-control resources, or those who want to learn more about making their complex smoke-free, may contact the Tobacco Education Project at (442)265-1380 or at

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